Food and drink companies urged to innovate for healthier profit

Over 80 directors and senior managers from local food and drink companies were urged to secure growth and profits by investing in new products, markets and processes.

They were taking part in a workshop organised by Invest Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Industry Advisory Panel (IAP), an independent body comprising leaders from local food businesses.

The one-day ‘Food for Thought’ event, held at the Loughry Campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), in Cookstown, focused on how innovation, including new products, could help local companies open up markets outside Northern Ireland and thereby increase both sales and profitability in the short and long term.

Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI Food Director, commenting on the workshop, said: “Innovation is the lifeblood of business and the route to a stronger and more diversified private sector in Northern Ireland.

“As our biggest manufacturing industry, food and drink can make an even greater contribution than the £3 billion it already contributes to the local economy. By investing in new products, marketing activities, techniques and processes companies can strengthen their ability to

compete successfully and, above all, profitably for business, particularly outside Northern Ireland, and thereby ensure faster economic growth here that will also lead to new employment opportunities.

“We have many excellent examples of local companies that are prospering through a sharp commitment to innovation. The objective of this workshop is to encourage and help many more to follow their example. The event is also in line with Invest NI’s strategic focus on fostering innovation for international markets,” he added.

John Fay, CAFRE, Director, said “DARD recognises the importance of innovation to the ongoing development of the food processing sector. We are delighted to host today’s event at our Loughry Campus. It has been a good opportunity for delegates to view our food technology facilities and to see the range of government and other support services available to them.”

At the workshop, two case studies on successful innovation were presented by Dominic Darby, Marketing Manager of Finnebrogue, Downpatrick, a company which has grown business through new meat products, and Lewis Cunningham, Managing Director of Wilson’s Country, Craigavon, a specialist in potatoes.